This post was written by the team from The One You're With.

Many teams have tried creative solutions during the pandemic to continue work and get back to set. This group demonstrates the importance of flexibility and pitching in to complete a project.

C. Bailey Werner, Jon Michael Simpson, and Jeff McQuitty, A.K.A. the team behind the new film The One You’re With, discuss making a micro-budget romantic comedy in the middle of a pandemic, with a skeleton crew, about two strangers forced to live together during lockdown.

C. Bailey Werner [Writer/Director/Actor]: When March 2020 happened, I, like most people, was losing my mind. I was glued to the television searching for some ounce of hope in a reality that was crumbling daily. Between the constant news cycle, homemade masks, and Tiger King... my wife and I would cycle between anxiety attacks, crying fits, and immense amounts of fear for ourselves and loved ones. So, we did what any sane person would do—we made a movie.

Jon Michael Simpson [Producer/Actor]: Chad, Jeff, and I have been working together for a long time. They were the first friends and collaborators I made in film school and we haven’t looked back on making things together since. We got our start in comedic work so when Chad brought this idea to me it immediately felt like a story that was our vibe and made a lot of sense to do. When one of us has an idea and we go for it, the shorthand we have creating is always really enjoyable.  Plus we had nothing—and I mean nothing—going on at that time. What better excuse to make something with buds?

Werner: I wrote the script very quickly. I had a lot of time on my hands, and I just wrote it as fast as I could. My wife and I got married in December 2019. So while our marriage was not a one-night stand, we were experiencing living in a confined space all the time. We both laughed a lot and chatted back and forth about funny scenarios. She’s equally to thank for this script. After I was done I sent it to my frequent partners in crime, Jeff and Jon Michael.

Jeff McQuitty [Producer/Director of Photography]: Chad, Jon Michael, and I have been close friends and collaborators since our college days, having started in sketch comedy (as The Cuddle Squad) to doing feature films and everything in between. I think after months of sitting inside, we were all feeling desperate to do something, anything, creative. If Chad had sent me a puppet musical about laparoscopic surgery, I probably would have said “GOD, YES PLEASE!” But luckily it was this film.

Dscf2674Chad Werner, Jon Michael Simpson and Jeff McQuitty blacking out the AirBnb windows.Credit: Jeff McQuitty

Werner: I was itching to direct again. This time, however, I knew I wanted to act too. Also, to be honest, having a project in the works was keeping me sane and distracted as we didn’t know where the year was going.

Simpson: When Chad told me he wanted to act in the main role and direct, I knew it would be possible, but also none of us had ever done that at a feature level, so it was a little scary going into it... thinking that, "Oh man, those are both big jobs for one movie, and Chad’s going to have to be firing on all cylinders and need the right support to dial it in." This meant all of us having to wear several hats when normally one job on a film set means quite the full load.

Werner: I don’t know if it was reality-distortion, but I think it was more my faith in Jon Michael and Jeff. These are incredibly talented guys who are multi-faceted.

Simpson: Getting this off the ground in the middle of the pandemic was… interesting to say the least. Deciding on our crew and what roles would be absolutely essential was the toughest part. Everyone (including us) had concerns initially with the unknowns of the pandemic. We consulted other trusted producers and productions and laid out our safety protocols upfront for the crew making sure each team member was comfortable with the parameters. We were moving forward based on CDC, medical expert, quarantine policies, and available guidelines at that point for our crew. We eventually landed an amazing (and quite tiny) crew. Us three, wardrobe, sound, art (who worked prior to crew arrival each day), and a gaffer. The rest of the crew would work remotely.

McQuitty: We knew we had to make the movie with a skeleton crew, and ultimately for the camera and lighting department, that meant we had to do it all with two people. Two! No ACs, grips, electricians, nada. Just me and my gaffer/key grip/AC, Drake Howard. So much credit goes to Drake for providing solutions fast and being an incredible collaborator. From the beginning, we had to be extremely economical. Anything we could do to simplify our process, we did it.

Dscf3038Credit: Jeff McQuitty

Simpson: Safety was most important. We laid out ground rules and protocols from the start. Masks were required. Quarantining was mandated. No outside people. Daily temperature checks. Hand sanitizer. All the works. Day player roles would only be outside and distanced. We also kept our crew below ten people at all times which were the current local and state guidelines for groups.

Werner: My wife, Kasey, is an immensely creative talent who’s been along for each one of my projects, so I knew she would crush it in the wardrobe department. She also helped with crafty, PA'ing, art direction, and everything else. Koko Marshall is an amazing actress that starred in our previous movies and we knew she’d be a team player. She’s an indie filmmaker herself and came along for the ride by helping carry equipment, props, etc.

Simpson: We brought Colt Joyce on as an assistant director and co-producer. We had worked with Colt on a previous feature and several smaller projects and were so impressed by his attitude and work ethic. It was his first go as a first AD on a feature and he absolutely crushed it. Colt always offered up great solutions we ran into during production and kept us on time!

We had Emily Potter as our production designer who did an incredible job and was game to come up with a unique strategy to help keep crew numbers down as much as possible. Emily would design the set and props and drop them off at the start of each film day and place them. I would then act as her surrogate and place things as needed and she always provided great direction.

Dscf3686From left to right: Tanner Goheen (Outdoor Gaffer) Jeff McQuitty, Sanjay Rao, Jon Michael Simpson, Chad Werner, Colt Joyce, and Koko Marshall.Credit: Jeff McQuitty

Werner: Jon Michael was also DIT and PA on top of running art and producing and acting.

Simpson: I also ran DIT and PA’d.

McQuitty: And gripped.

Simpson: Everyone was a “grip.”

Werner: Jon Michael, Jeff, Kasey and I blacked out all the windows at the house for the “night” shoots, which was our first week of production. We just didn’t want to pull all-nighters. We said it was for COVID purposes so people could get good rest…

Dscf3210Chad Werner, Jon Michael Simpson and Jeff McQuitty blacking out the AirBnb windows.Credit: Jeff McQuitty

Simpson: But really we’re tired of shooting all-nighters.

McQuitty: We’ve lost years of our lives on all-nighters in the past.

Werner: Two rules of indie filmmaking after age 25… no pizza for meals, and no all-nighters.

McQuitty: A main goal of mine throughout was to make the film look natural; not overly lit or stylized, or in your face. Honestly, I would love it if no one really notices the cinematography. Chad and I decided early on that we wanted the film to feel warm, but also close. Like at times too close, almost claustrophobic, to mirror our main characters' experience being mostly stuck inside. We landed on using a 1.66 aspect ratio; Chad wanted these Jonathan Demme-style close-ups for key moments, where our characters would look right down the lens and 1.66 just felt right.

Werner: It was pretty incredible what Jeff and Drake would do. By the end of shooting they could set up an entire scene in 20 minutes, make it look beautiful and not be stressed one bit. If they were stressed I didn’t know it.

Simpson: Jeff was chill.

McQuitty: At times I was dying inside.

Werner: I had no idea if he was or not.

Simpson: I knew. I can tell by the sighs.

McQuitty: I am a zen master.

Simpson: I lied, I didn’t know…

Werner: He made a gorgeous movie.

Still_193_0Koko MarshallCredit: Jeff McQuitty

Werner: When our initial 15 days were done, we were all pretty spent. I think the adrenaline of doing something small and tight kept us going but by the end of it, I felt like I was just in a blur.

McQuitty: We were able to make it thanks to a lot of favors. We borrowed equipment from friends or got extremely low rentals since most people weren’t working at the time.

Simpson: We landed locations we wouldn’t have been able to get with our budget because of the pandemic too.It was a movie that was equally hard but also equally possible because of the pandemic.

Werner: We planned from the beginning to get a bigger actor for our President scenes. I knew I wanted someone hilarious and that would bring some clout to our little indie. I also figured we could get bigger-name actors' attention because of the lack of work going on.

McQuitty: A few months after we wrapped, we decided to film a pitch video using footage from the movie to send out to our dream list of actors. We came from sketch comedy, so the goal was to not only show that the movie was legit, but also incorporate some weird comedy to showcase us as a team.

Screen_shot_2021-09-21_at_10Jon Michael Simpson, Chad Werner, Jeff McQuitty and a stray cat in the “Be Our President Colton Dunn” video.Credit: Jeff McQuitty

Werner: We reached out to all our comedy/acting heroes, not expecting any of them to get back to us, and all of them did with such gracious things to say, it was mind-boggling. We were blown away when Colton Dunn said he’d do it. We’re all huge Parks and Recreation and Superstore fans.

McQuitty: He’s hilarious.

Werner: So kind and so funny.

Simpson: We ended up shooting Colton’s scenes in Los Angeles. Once again we had a very limited crew  (this time just five of us) and were following union compliance and guidelines. It was a dream come true to work with Colton, it was so easy to bounce ideas with him and see him spin them into something absolutely insane and hilarious. He is a badass and came in ready to go and gave us some of the funniest scenes in the movie. Thank you, Colton!

Still_84Colton Dunn as the PresidentCredit: Jeff McQuitty

Werner: Jacob, our editor, had finished most of the movie, so we plugged and played the president scenes. Got it to our post-team fully remote and sent it off to connections we had made from previous movies. So thankful to get distribution.

Simpson: Once we had all the pieces of the movie together, Chad and Jacob cut together a really strong trailer. We decided to forego the “virtual festivals.” We respect everyone making do with the pandemic and festivals, but we felt our small movie would get swallowed alive in the virtual space. So we got set up with connections from previous movies. We sent out the trailer to distributors and it pulled together interest. We ended up going with 1091 because we really like their transparency and willingness to work with us on the marketing plan and materials. For the scope of our film and what we hope to accomplish they were the best fit—and it didn’t hurt that they have a really nice team there.

Werner: Cut together a good trailer. It makes a huge difference.

The One You’re With is available on VOD everywhere. You can pre-order the film here.